The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled yesterday that some nurses who are responsible for assigning tasks to other hospital employees will be considered supervisors under federal law, thus unable to join a labor union. The case involved a dispute at Oakwood Heritage Hospital outside of Detroit, Michigan. The hospital argued that two-thirds of the potential bargaining unit who worked – either permanently or temporarily – as charge nurses were actually “supervisors” because of their responsibilities of assigning, overseeing, and directing other workers on a shift, the Washington Post reports. The traditional definition of a supervisor has been someone who can hire, fire, and discipline employees. Charge nurses, however, only direct their co-workers.
Labor groups have responded with concerns over the NLRB’s ruling. Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) told the Sacramento Bee, “If the ruling remains unchanged, this is going to have a devastating effect on unionization in the country.” EPI estimates that, under the new definition of supervisor, about 1.4 million American workers would lose their union membership.
California Nurses Association President Rose Ann DeMaro spoke out against the decision, saying, “We have a decision that ultimately opens the door to the deunionization of registered nurses and silencing their voice.” DeMaro added that California nurses would strike if an employer implemented the change, which would affect about 30 percent of the Association’s membership, the Sacramento Bee reports.